Category Archives: Buy Local

BUY LOCAL Network Kicks Off!

Earth Day, April 22nd, brought with it an exciting announcement from the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council:  the Buy Local Network for all businesses in Fayette County is now officially operating! Bob Junk and Jessica Steimer of Fay-Penn, and Val J. Laub of the Herald Standard, presented the material at an outdoor press conference in Connellsville’s Yough Park.

The program unites local, independently-owned businesses of varying types and sizes in an overarching network of discounts and incentives to encourage customers to choose local stores over generic, big-box chains.  “This is a new approach to an old concept of one another in the community supporting local businesses,” Laub said.

Buying in the neighborhood recirculates community dollars three-fold, and often supports agriculture and manufacturing in the region as opposed to halfway around the world.  That’s a heck of a carbon footprint reduction for each dollar spent.

Customers present a Buy Local card at participating businesses, in order to receive product discounts and the chance to enter monthly raffles to win goods from Buy Local Network businesses.

To join the network, businesses commit to these discounts (upwards of $25) while also donating monthly to a community reinvestment fund (upwards of $10); community groups can then apply for this funding through any business involved in the Buy Local Network.

Fay-Penn covers promotions, advertising, and card distribution – a business simply has to buy-in, put up the Buy Local window cling, and begin accepting card-bearing customers!

As with any network, its strength is in the number of businesses engaged. If you’re considering how to connect with your community in a multitude of ways, joining this program is an effective move.

Already 60 + businesses are engaged and thousands of cards distributed.  Fay-Penn works closely with the Herald Standard to circulate Buy Local announcements and updates.

Contact to find out more about joining the network.  A possibility for the network to extend into other counties may exist in the future, so stay tuned if your business lies outside of Fayette County…

Click here for a full article highlighting the program.

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Filed under Buy Local, In the News, Local Food, Restaurants, Retailers

Taco Tally – Downsize Your Menu

An assessment by URBANlab, an architectural program at The California College of the Arts, recently deconstructed the journey of 19 ingredients commonly found in the average taco. Ingredients were selected based on economical choices; that is, only the cheapest ingredients made the recipe list.

What did the “tacoshed” (that’s a play on words between watershed and taco, FYI) study reveal?  The taco in your hand, if in fact you’re eating a taco, is most likely the result of 64,000 miles covered by some combination of delivery truck, plane, bus, boat, or train.

Compiling the assessment entailed hours of research, phone calling, internet digging, and (assumed) frustration over the complexity of tracking food sources.  The short story is simple, however:  many foods purchased from wholesale delivery companies like SYSCO participate in a global supply chain that devastates our fuel supply.

The challenge is to focus not only on buying raw produce locally, but also prepared foods. This may mean cutting foods from your menu that you cannot prepare from scratch, or replacing prepared foods with a home-made version. For example, replace canned coleslaw with slaw made with local cabbage and carrots.

Is time an issue?  Again, consider tailoring your menu to account for labor costs and improved quality; oftentimes, menus with fewer choices mean fresher ingredients, more time to prep each item, and oftentimes a better-tasting and more satisfying dining experience.  By allowing more opportunity to prep fewer foods, you can purchase more fresh produce without fear that it will go bad.  This cuts down on canned, prepared food purchases in significant ways.

Having trouble reducing the size of your menu?  To narrow down the most popular items, distribute a survey to your patrons; leave room for suggestions on how to improve the food as well.

Other methods to lessen the “foodprint” of your menu include serving less meat, serving local meats and dairy, and altering menu options based on seasonal availability.  Phase out canned chicken-noodle soup and replace with a local root vegetable stew, for a unique home-made flavor that diners will appreciate.

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Just our (Irish) luck! A Perfect Holiday to Advertise Your “Green-ness”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

Bless our hearts, there is at least one day a year when everyone wants to celebrate all that is green!  St. Patrick was a saint in the 5th century who used a (green) shamrock to explain the trinity in his religious teachings.  And due to the lush landscape of the Emerald Isles and Ireland’s beautiful natural scenery, green became synonymous with Ireland, eventually representing an immigrant Irish voting block (the Green Party) that U.S. political candidates attempted to win over in American elections starting in the 1850’s.

Why mention the history of this festive occasion?  Before you kick back with a strong stout at your favorite pub, break Lent for the afternoon, or attend your local parade, it’s worth considering the symbolism and meaning behind the color green. 

Any day of the year, what does it mean to be green?  How can a business re-invigorate this color to stand for firm commitments and market choices, without falling prey to the “greenwashing” trend overtaking the commercial world?

In 2004, Office Depot used this holiday to introduce a number of new “green” products to its stores, improving its website with recycling tips for the home and office, and clearly labeling the recycled content of its stock.

And this year, the Sierra Club offers a suggestion (to bars as well as to individuals) that “green brews” are available – enjoying local microbrews reduces energy burned on shipping and oftentimes organic beers match their competition in flavor and price. 

Have any nifty marketing tips to rake in the Leprechaun gold??  That is, will your business celebrate the holiday by providing discounts or deals for customers who support your green efforts in some way? 

Or maybe you can use this holiday simply as an excuse to talk about the conservation efforts of your business, for all the town to see, like a rainbow in the sky…

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Got questions about Local Foods?

Attention restaurateurs and B&B owners!

Do you have questions about local or organic foods? You can get them answered by Pittsburgh chef Bill Fuller and the Allegheny Front’s Jennifer Szweda Jordan for the new segment Earth’s Bounty 2.0. They’re taking phone calls and e-mails pertaining to local foods and the environment that may air on the radio show.

E-mail them at or call 412-25-ZESTY with questions from dyes in food and sustainable fish to local wines and beef.

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Filed under B&Bs, Business, Buy Local, in Southwestern PA, In the News, Local Food, Restaurants

December ACTION!

Happy December! This month we challenge you to “Think Local” for holiday gifts, foods and celebrations. Work with fellow business owners to promote each other as great sources of holiday cheer, or offer special deals for holiday shoppers. The Trail Towns offer some very unique, locally-owned stores and restaurants that can add a distinctive flavor to your gift-giving.

Businesses can team-up to promote each other through special sale days, all offering special deals and discounts to drive traffic to downtown shopping areas and other small businesses. In Northampton, MA, as the holidays approach downtown becomes flooded with shoppers on “Bag Day” when residents receive a special bag in the local newspaper entitling them to discounts at downtown retailers. There are many other creative ways to feed the local economy, promote your business as a destination for great gifts, and support fellow business owners who will in turn support you! If you need help thinking of ideas or are offering special promotions leave a comment so we can build the movement together!

And don’t forget about local foods for all of your holiday feasting. Enjoy the Allegheny Front’s Local Foods Happy Hour Friday December 11 in Pittsburgh to support the mission of the Allegheny Front, sample some tasty treats and network with fellow local food enthusiasts! The event is $10 at the door. RSVP to

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A question that arose at the Great Allegheny Passage Sustainability Summit last week concerns biodiesel.  Eric Martin (owner, Wilderness Voyageurs and Falls City Pub) and Mike Dreisbach (owner, Savage River Lodge) both refine their used cooking oil into biodiesel for their vehicles.  The questions put forth were:

1. What vehicles can run on biodiesel?

2. Do the vehicles need to be modified for such use?

In order to run a vehicle on biodiesel the vehicle must have a diesel powered engine.  Diesel vehicles get great mileage (a modern VW Golf diesel gets upwards of 50 mpg). Diesels are generally the longest lasting reliable cars on the road with most engines lasting over 400,000 miles. Unfortunately in the US the diesel vehicle selection is limited as compared to the rest of the world.  However, this seems to be changing as the price of gas goes up and diesel hybrid technology is developed. Volkswagen sells all their models in diesel versions called TDI, which are excellent biodiesel vehicles. Jeep is just now coming out with a diesel version of their Liberty SUV.  Ford, Dodge, Chevy and GMC all currently sell diesel versions of their large pickups and Mercedes is about to come out with a new turbo diesel in the US. There are also a host of older vehicles such as Mercedes, Volvo, etc that can be found on the used market in diesel.  You can find a great list of all US diesel makes and models at:

Most vehicles do not require any prep to run biodiesel.  However for vehicles manufactured before 1985 the fuel line should be changed to a modern fluorinated plastic such as Viton as the biodiesel could cause swelling in some older plastic lines. If the vehicle has been running petro-diesel for a long time you should be prepared to change the fuel filter in the first few thousand miles of biodiesel use.  Biodiesel will flush all the petro-diesel residue from your system and it will end up in your fuel filter. As this happens you will feel a gradual loss of power over a few days, this is the signal to change the filter.

Both Eric and Mike mentioned future ideas to perhaps begin Biodiesel Co-ops.  So what does a biodiesel co-op entail?  A co-op is a community of people that committ to share ideas, skills, and in most cases goods.  For a membership fee, members of a co-op generally receive discounted products or goods.  A biodiesel co-op would therefore use this principle based around the manufacture and distribution of biodiesel.

To understand how it operates in reality, here are a few examples of successful Biodiesel Co-ops:

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Filed under Buy Local, Creative re-use, Green on the GAP, how-to, in Southwestern PA, recycle, reuse

Why Buy Local?

If you’re reading this, you probably already know about all the great things local businesses do for their communities and their customers… But it never hurts to be reminded! Plus, you can pass this list on and enlighten someone else…

Ten good reasons to shop at locally owned businesses:

  1. Significantly more money re-circulates in your community when you buy from locally owned, rather than nationally owned, businesses: More money stays in the community because locally owned businesses purchase from other local businesses, service providers, and farms. Purchasing locally helps grow other businesses as well as your community’s tax base.
  2. Local businesses provide most new jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally, and in most communities provide the most new jobs to residents.
  3. One-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of a community’s distinctive character: The unique character of any town or region is what people love about it, and what tourists come to visit. Richard Moe, president of the National Historic Preservation Trust, says, “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.”
  4. Local business owners invest in community: People who own local businesses live in the community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.
  5. Customer service is better: Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service.
  6. Competition and diversity lead to more choices: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
  7. Local businesses have less environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases, requiring less transportation, and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss, and pollution.
  8. Local businesses’ public benefits far outweigh their public costs: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.
  9. Local businesses encourages investment in the community: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest in and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.
  10. Local businesses give more support to nonprofits: Nonprofit organizations receive an average 350 percent greater support from local business owners than they do from non-locally owned businesses.

from the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) at

If you think of more good reasons to buy local, share them in the comments section!

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